FICTION DIRECT             OUR ADVENTURE BLOG              by Sally

    March comes to an end with Easter, and Whudderin Heichts is about to be printed. It's a bigger book than we've done before. I will have some publicity copies for anyone who can realistically offer any kind of promotion, review, etc. It will be hard to read if you have no experience of north east Scots, but you can always read it against an ordinary Wuthering Heights -- if such a book could ever be called ordinary. 
    Meanwhile we have two more books on the stocks, Geoff Sawers' Friends of Friends which is nearly ready, and another agreed but not quite yet announced for the summer. 

The mountain hare in its winter coat photographed in central Scotland by Dave Smith. It's Fiction Direct's first  New Year & we're gearing up for more events & more books. The next one is Whutherin Heichts, the famous & unnerving Bronte book, translated into Doric, or North Eastern Scots, or Aberdeenshire Scots, by Sheena Blackhall and Linda Smith. for the love of the language. This language is now generally called Doric, and there's a Doric Board, who have shown interest in our forthcoming book. I'm working on the cover design, having visited Howarth last year to find a photo shot that will belong to us. And I'm designing the pages from  Linda's impeccable file of the finished text. 

Pixie our bookshop cat says:
Join our co-operative fiction publishing
Enjoy reading Fiction Direct novels
Two novels is company
Three is a publishing house
Four and we're away-- See you!

End February: a few more days in this leap month and we have agreed on our fifth publication, a book of connected stories by Geoff Sawers. Geoff is widely known as a writer, artist, mapmaker, one time bookseller -- and publisher at the Two Rivers Press in Reading. We are delighted to have him on board. Much more very soon!


February 2024, and Whudderin Heichts has gone to the printers. What a big development that seems! It's a huge book, 110,000 words, and it's a major novel in the public domain, but the Scots language brings out its character in an astonishing way, Your vision of these 18th century characters and their world is transformed by the closer perspective of Scots.

October 22nd
  Autumn has come, storms have come, physical, political and humanitarian.
What can we do? Work in our corner of free speech, free literature.

   Whutherin Heichts
    Starting in 2024, our fourth book extends our range again: a translation into Scots by Sheena Blackhall and Linda Smith. I still have to go up to Aberdeen to finalise this, meet the second author whom I havent met so far, and sort out a few details, but when Sheena and I are agreed on something, you may be sure it will happen. And they have gone for the jugular. The original, extraordinary and shocking Wuthering Heights deals in rural dialect from north west England, some very abstruse. Sheena is an outstanding authority on Aberdeenshire Scots, and Linda Smith has managed to keep up with her. Work like this should not go unrecorded in paper books, and the print run won't be massive, so copies will be limited. Look our for this in the spring


Right: Sheena Blackhall and Sally Evans in Callander

Into October already
 and the next book, Inside DAMMA, has gone to press.  The usual excitement over cover design, proofing etc. Now a wait, patient or otherwise. Two novels is company, three is a publishing house! Events are beginning to go on the calendar (see Events page)

October the First. With all the excitement, beginning of the posting out, some shop sales, record keeping and discussions, we are grappling with final files for Inside DAMMA, our third book. Everything has to be exactly right between four authors and the printers' instructions, and time is pressing as we really, really want this ready for the Christmas sales. Covers, spines, proofing, acknowledgements, all have to be right. 
On the website, we've added our guarantee of confidentiality for all authors' novel files received.

September 2023 We're off! Oct 1st is our official publication date but copies are now creeping out, leading we hope to an avalanche. Catching blips.  Seeking reviews (books can be supplied for sensible offers). Relaxing after quite some months' preparation. Typesetting the next book. 

August 2023. Things are hotting up. We have filled our website with chat about the project. We have received proof copies from the printer -- and spotted that the spine lettering was upside down (our instructions had not been clear). This is why you need a hard copy of the proof.
     The proof is reassuring. Our first major novel typesetting project has gone well. The text is highly readable. The books look like novels. But there is panic on some of the IT. I have had to ask website managers for assistance several times. The webshop is not ready. There are four weeks left till our launch.

     This matter of readability is important for more elderly readers. At a time of concentration on youth, and of economy, many novels are produced in ungenerously small print. Having had the good fortune to have a book designed by Gerry Cambridge, an acknowledged expert, I was initially frightened about our typesetting skills. In the event, our Fiction Direct pages look good, and are more physically readable than many current novels. They are paperbacks but they look like hardbacks from the inside!

July 2023. I am reversing the order of blog entries -- the top the most recent. Morelle Smith's Beyond the Lion Gate and Sally Evans' Lettersgait have gone to press. While I have published many books of poetry and plays, these are novels, which are somewhat different. We'll get proofs from the firm that does our printing  and that will be the moment of truth for us after the baptism of fire.

June 2023.  Morelle is back from her residency abroad, and I have  a novel finished last December that should have a publisher by now. Morelle and I, old campaigners together, have a chat. Morelle has two novels waiting. We are not amateur beginners. We are not unsuccessful. I have done a lot of small scale publishing, from which I thought I had retired. But why not use a learned skill? Why not take things further? If the alternative was to sit on work we gave so much time to, with the intention of passing on our stories through the written word, why not go for a proper publishing venture?
     A  few others, our beta readers, writing colleagues we have known for years, came in around our discussions. They were interested but busy (as one expects) and wanted Morelle and myself to be the guinea pigs. If we can sell our books and control our modest finances, they may come in next  year -- so may other writers who have shown their worth. Some writers are so busy writing and teaching, or studying, or whatever else they are doing,  they need someone else to sell their books for them. Fiction Direct writers will have to sell some of their own books, but we will help.
     When we started the publishing offshoot of Old Grindles Bookshop (now Kings Bookshop Callander), in 1990, it was still possible for a publisher to sell books direct to bookshops. I went to London, York, Oxford and Newcastle as well as the Scottish cities with our books. We had small but satisfactory successes. We aren't aiming to hit the major lists, but we found enough readers to make our editions of 500 books often sell out, which made life worth living for the writers, and there were actual readers out there. Today, many small publishers make even smaller editions. They know they are not in the big league, and when occasional authors make it onto the open seas, such authors say goodbye to their small beginnings. 
      Many unknown but competent authors are getting satisfaction, and an income, from internet publishing now, selling the option to read their work online, but we are lovers of paper books. We love their feel, their look, their ability to open a window from your private room or garden or secret space, out to others who connect with them. We are booksellers after all.
     I'll say that again. We love books.
     And we  are looking for more than competence. We are looking for art. We want books you will remember, books that will make you laugh and learn and extend your experience.

9 July. Preliminary work on the cover design for Lettersgait. 'Violet' or pansy over a Victorian lace design rejected. Items from the bindery and printing shop brought into play. Cover before overprinting

11 July. Files of Lettersgait text and and cover go to printer. Time's winging on. Beyond the Lion Gate is being finalised by Morelle.
16 July. Morelle Smith's text complete. We start brainstorming Morelle's cover design. She has photos of Albania but we need to show the living theme of the book. The text is now going into the series page format which will determine the page length and cost of the book.

17 July. Another novel comes in, an exciting experiment by four authors who have a connection to the theme. Current yes, it was written while their work environment was in lockdown. I think we will take post-covid as our base line for contemporary status. 

Start work on Morelle's cover. The Lion Gate and views of Albania illustrate the book, but they are landscape and we need a portrait front cover. They lack the brightness and oomph of the orange tree.  We decide on the Orange Tree beside the Ionian Sea.

Sally discusses another novel offered by an author who's heard about us, with the author. We mutually decide it is a meditation rather than a novel, and the author is happy to leave it unpublished. We see a long road ahead of negotiations with authors while we make this work as collaborative publishing AND keep the form of the novel and the standard excellent.
From this point we'll reverse the blog entries, newest first.